Construction Site Accidents
New York Labor Law and Construction Accidents
New York State offers special jobsite protections to construction workers and other laborers who are injured on the job. Unlike other states, which limit jobsite injuries to workers’ compensation claims, New York State allows certain workers injured in certain circumstances to pursue personal injury claims as well. In some cases, this can open the door to significant compensation well beyond what is available through the workers’ compensation system.
The Marcowitz Law Firm concentrates on this area of New York State Labor Law. Our skilled staff can evaluate your particular situation and discuss what damages you may be eligible to recover.
Call us or contact us online now for a free consultation to discuss your situation and your best legal options.
How NYS Labor Law Protects Workers
Under New York State Labor Law, any machinery, device, or equipment shall be constructed, arranged, and operated so as to provide “reasonable and adequate protection” to the lives, health, and safety of any employees at such sites, as well as persons frequenting these sites.
In the construction industry, this means that contractors, owners and their agents have a responsibility to furnish or erect safe equipment for workers involved not just with building or erecting a structure, but also in excavation, demolition, repair, alterations, painting, or cleaning. The activities covered even include the lighting of the worksite and the guarding of the site and equipment.
New York Labor Law Section 240, also known as the “Scaffold Law,” specifically refers to safety precautions meant to prevent workers from falling while working on scaffolding, along with preventing objects from falling from such equipment. The law covers not only scaffolding but staging equipment such as:
The law focuses on any scaffolding or staging that’s outdoors or doesn’t cover an entire floor space and rises more than 20 feet from the ground. Such scaffolding must:
- Be able to bear four times its maximum weight.
- Have a safety rail that’s at least 34 inches above the floor or main portions of scaffolding.
- Secure the safety rail properly with bolts, braces, or other attachments.
- Be fastened as a whole to prevent it from swaying away from the building or structure.
New York also specifies protections in Labor Law 241 that pertain to general worksite safety, not just work on elevated platforms. This section of the law emphasizes providing safety protections for people both working at these sites and visiting them in the course of business. It also discusses:
- The construction or demolition of different flooring (underflooring, double floors, fireproof materials, floor beams made of iron or steel).
- Using elevators, elevating machines, or hoisting apparatus (enclosing the shafts or openings in the floor with barriers, for instance).
- Handling buildings to be demolished that are found to contain asbestos or asbestos material.
What Do You Have to Prove?
You’ll generally need to prove that the following elements existed at a jobsite in order to hold an owner or contractor liable for injuries under the Labor Law:
- There was a dangerous condition on the premises, or in the means or method of construction.
- The dangerous condition was “the proximate cause” of the worksite accident.
- The contractor or owner had notice of the dangerous condition.
- The contractor or owner controlled or supervised the work or the dangerous condition.
With the Scaffold Law, the law of gravity comes into play. You’ll have to prove that the owner or contractor failed to have the proper protection equipment that the statute required, as well as that there was risk of falling objects or workers because of gravity. What’s more, this improper protection must be the “proximate cause” of your injury — not your own negligence.
For instance, was safety equipment available? What kind? Belts? Harnesses? Tail lines? Lifelines? Guardrails? Safety netting?
Was the equipment defective? Were you trained in or instructed in using the safety equipment correctly? Did you opt to use different equipment for some reason?
Under these sections of New York State Labor Law, you’ll also have to prove that the work involved wasn’t part of routine maintenance. Replacing failed components of a building or structure, as well as alterations, are covered. But some case law says that replacing parts or components because of normal wear and tear is “routine maintenance” and not covered.
For instance, one man working on a mock-up of a construction project fell 12 feet from a motorized scaffold that tipped over. However, because his activities weren’t directed at producing a significant structural alteration or construction under the statute’s definition at the time he was injured, there was no liability.
The statute also doesn’t cover accidents involving construction materials not at worksites. For instance, a person hurt while delivering masonry materials to a site might not be covered.
There are other exemptions under these sections of New York State Labor Law. The owners of one- to two-family dwellings who do not direct or control work may not be held liable, for example.
Compensation If You Are Hurt in a Fall at Work in New York
If you are hurt in a fall at work from scaffolding or during some other type of work at construction site in New York, you may be eligible for compensation for lost wages and medical expenses. In general, benefits under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Law are calculated at two-thirds of an employee’s average weekly wage up to a maximum. That award is adjusted depending upon any partial or permanent disability and how that affects a person’s ability to work.
At the Marcowitz Law Firm, we can help determine whether your situation falls within the scope of New York State Labor Law. We also can assess who can be held liable financially for your injuries and gather any documentation and evidence needed to support your claim.
This may include:
- Worksite photographs
- Incident reports
- Safety plans
- Site specifications
- Work records
- Contracts and indemnity clauses
- Certificates of insurance
- Witness statements
If you’re unsure whether your injury is covered under these sections of NYS Labor Law, or you have additional questions about filing such a claim, we’re glad to assist you. Please contact us online or call us now for a free consultation.